While there are a good many writing myths these are some of the most common and the most deadly.
Read over this page to see which one or more of these myths are denying you the success you deserve.
"I need inspiration to write."
Inspiration has nothing to do with it. Writing is work and if you want to write, then you have to consistently and diligently write. If your solution is to wait for inspiration you might as well play the lottery. There's a better chance of winning.
"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." ~ Jack London.
You also need some know-how which is what you'll get from this website and my books.
- The Muse
The muse is a myth. She doesn't exist. The only real muse is our own consistent hard work and a desire to succeed.
And of course "practice" however, as Vince Lombardi so aptly put it, "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect."
Which illustrates the fact that you must learn the correct Technology of Storytelling before you practice it. Otherwise you can only get better at doing it wrong.
- The "born writer"
Writers are not born -- they are made by study and practice. The only problem is knowing; how to study, what to study and what and how to practice.
Which points us back to having and using the correct Story Technology or what I simply call "Story Tech".
- "It just flowed from my pen, keyboard, etc."
Because it came easy doesn't make the story or the telling of it any good.
The excitement the author feels in writing the book is not the same excitement that the reader will feel in reading it. These two are not the same thing.
The excitement the reader experiences is largely due to the proper structuring of the story.
The writing only needs to be simple and clear enough to convey the story without getting in the way.
- Self-publishing is the answer.
Self-publishing is no cure for a poor story, poorly told.
The two biggest problems for writers whether they self-publishing or opt for a NY publisher are:
First: Aspiring writers attempt to skip the "Story Conception","Story Design" and "Story Research" processes necessary to ensure that they have a good story, well told. Instead they routinely attempt to jump straight from story idea to "Story Composition" - and then wonder why they spend countless hours re-re-re-re-writing and still wind up with a poor quality book, if they finish the manuscript at all.
Second: Authors don’t know how to (or even that they need to) "sell" their book; presuming of course that they have a good book that can be sold in the first place. Hand-in-hand with this goes the idea that they can make money with just one book.
The Catch-22 of selling fiction books is - the author must sell his book but every book must sell itself. And no amount of marketing money or effort can compensate for a lousy story, poorly told.
Self-published books have an even worse rate of failure than the publishing industry as a whole.
The average self-published book sells only 10-100 copies.
The self-publishing industry (formerly known as vanity publishers) make all their money selling copies to their authors.
True self-publishing (which is not paying money to a vanity press) is great and I highly recommend it. But every prospective author must study the craft of story creation and storytelling BEFORE they write the book, and then they must study book publishing in general and self-publishing in particular BEFORE they publish, to have any chance of success.
Oh, and the author must write and publish in quantity, quickly (6-10 books in 24 months is a good target) to have a sufficient presence in the marketplace to start selling any books.
Get the Truth about Self Publishing
- The publisher will sell my book.
Publishers only manufacture manuscripts into books that can be sold, and make them available to bookstores. Bookstores only display books for sale. There's a huge difference between "taking orders" and "selling". It's up to the author to actually promote, and sell his books.
- The experts know all about it.
This is the idea that the professionals in the publishing and movie businesses have it all figured out.
The sad truth is that 75% of all new books and movies fail to even earn back their cost of production. Given only a 25% success rate, we would have to conclude that the experts aren't very expert at understanding what the public wants, how to produce it or even how to recognize it when they see it.
These "professionals" play a numbers game and your manuscript is only cannon-fonder which they will simply throw against the wall to see if it sticks. And every four months they will wipe your books from the shelves and replace it with the next batch.
The only way around being routinely put "out-of-print" is to self-publish or win the lottery of a "best-seller".
- I need a degree in literature.
This is true only if you want a job as an editor, or writing for newspapers or magazines. No one else cares about your education or lack thereof. All anyone wants, or cares about, is a good story, well told.
Higher education has little history of graduating successful fiction writers.
- I don’t have time to write.
Writers feel they lack time if they don’t know what to do, or how to do it. And therefore they don’t know how to manage the time they have. When one understands what they are doing and how to do it, it's easy to "find the time".
The secrete solution to the "lack of time" problem is to have and use the correct technology - "Story Tech".
No one every made a living, let alone any real money, doing something that they didn't really understand.
- "If you want to send a message, call western union."
This quote is attributed to a famous Hollywood studio head who ruled his industry in the 50s. But it will be observed that the "classics" that survive from that era (as well as all those before) all have a "premise" - the rest are long forgotten.
A story must have a premise or it's not a story. It might be something else but it's not a "story".
The problem comes from the confusion between "message" and "premise". Although these concepts are slightly related they are fare from the same thing.
A premise is so important to stories and storytelling that I devote several chapters to this concept in my book. And you will find it comes up repeating on this website.
Understanding this all important concept is central to understanding what stories are, what they do and how exactly they go about performing their magic.
Yet, the word premise is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the writers nomenclature.
Misunderstand or misapply this vital principle of storytelling and the writer might just as well print his manuscript straight into the recycle bin.
- It's who you know.
No one cares who you are or who you know. The very best that "knowing people" will get any writer is a foot in the door to show what you've got. But if you haven’t got a good story, well told, they'll boot you and your book right back out that door.
As I mentioned earlier, the "experts" in the publishing and movie businesses are so poor at picking winners they might just give your story a shot - if you know the right people. But if it's a lousy story, poorly told - that will be your last shot. Therefore "knowing the right people" is not a substitute for being able to produce a good, well told story.
- I'm to young, old, inexperienced, etc.
These are just excuses for a lack of knowledge or determination.
Many writers become successful in their teens while others make it in their 70's and beyond. It's really just a function of how long it takes you to figure out there's a Technology to storytelling and then how long it takes for you to find and start using that Technology.
If you know the Technology and use it - success is assured.
- I need an agent, and/or publisher.
What you need first and foremost is a good story, well told.
To achieve that you must know and use the correct tech of storytelling - what I call Story Tech.
Then you need to know how to sell your manuscript or book like any business person would sell a product. If you can do the above, everything else will take care of itself.
If on the other hand; you believe you can sit on a mountain top and simply type whatever comes to mind and some agent or publisher is going to swoop down like the tooth fairy, whisk your pages away and leave you bags of gold - your living in a dream world and it's time to wake up.
Writing, publishing and selling fiction is a business and it does not suffer fools.
Get the Truth about Self Publishing
- I'll just make it up as I go.
It's inconceivable that anyone who has every read even one novel, could believe for a moment that the story was "just made up" as the writer went along.
Yet, every aspiring writer started with that belief - myself included.
The fact that it takes decades to arrive at the truth is a testament to the lack of proper education on the subject.
- There is too much competition.
Quite the contrary. The reading and movie public are starving for more good stories, well told. They consume by the truckload the best they can find - and that isn't very good and it isn't nearly enough. Why do you think Hollywood is making movies from comic books and old sitcoms - and then sequels, and sequels of the sequels?
There are two reasons. Half the time they wouldn't know a good story if it hit them on the head. And the other half of the time they're shooting the best material they can find which isn't very good but they can't find enough good stuff to keep the wheels turning.
- It's about the art, it's not about making money.
One can work at writing fiction as a hobby, or a business. Only working it like a business will put bread on the table or pay the utility bill. If one can't make a living at it, it's only because they haven't learned how to consistently and efficiently produce and sell good, well-told stories.
If one can't make a living at it, then it's hard to do enough of it, to get good enough, by trial and error to make a living. Yes, it's a catch-22. The trick is to systematize the subject so that you can write good fiction quickly and consistently. With a systematic approach to the subject, one could get good enough in their spare time. Good artists starve to death because they don’t have a system and they don’t operate their "art" like a business.
There are three components to any business; establishment, operations and sales. Artists routinely starve because they neglect establishment, focus only on operations (making the art) and rely on others to do the selling. When they give up the selling part, they give up 75% or more of the profit necessary to survive, let alone stay in business - and that's why they starve or are told, "Don’t give up your day job."
- I don’t want to write formula fiction.
Systematizing the subject is not the same as reducing writing a novel to a paint-by-numbers formula; although a number of "popular" authors have done that. I won't mention any names but it seems that all they do with each new book is change the location and the names of the characters. It's the same story they wrote the last time. Although this is one solution for consistently producing a salable novel, there are other, better ways.
Their formula approach probably developed because they accidentally hit upon something that worked, and not knowing why, they elected to just keep doing more of the same.
But if one truly understands storytelling as a subject, and bases each story on a premise, (you actually need two) there are an unlimited number of different stories one can tell -- even allowing for the fact that all stories have the same basic structure.
- I get "writers block".
Writers block is only a symptom of not following a system from Story Conception, through Story Design and Story Research BEFORE starting the Story Composition phase. This leaves the writer trying to do at least four things all at the same time - in his head.
That's like trying to build a plane while flying it.
And would "block" anyone about anything.
Not to mention the fact that it would be damn near imposable to get where you were going.
Writing fiction is the only profession or field of endeavor that I've even heard of where otherwise sane people think that it makes sense to just "wing-it"; with no training, preparation or even a plan.
But as Mark Twain remarked, "It ain't what we don't know that gets us into trouble, but what we know for sure, that just ain't so."
Richard A. McCullough
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